Late afternoon Monday 17th June 16:30
An elderly man walked into Police Hq Nairobi carrying a small parcel wrapped in brown paper and bound tightly in parcel tape. At the reception desk he asked to speak to the the officer in charge of the writer’s murder enquiry. The desk Sergeant thought he recognised the man but he was not sure. He placed a call to Commander Ruby Mwekundu’s office. Ruby’s receptionist instructed the Sergeant to show the caller into an interview room where a member of the enquiry team would see him shortly. The team had been expanded following the discovery of another body. Officers were working round the clock in their efforts to catch the double-murderer. It was not even certain at this stage that the two killings were the work of one man. The girl had been strangled and the man had been stabbed multiple times in what the pathologists had described as a ‘frenzied attack’
The Desk Sergeant prepared to fill in the OB book before showing the old man to the interview room. He said, ‘Can you give me your name please, sir.’ The old man stared at him blankly. ‘I honestly don’t know,’ he finally said. The Sergeant was about to shout at the man to stop wasting police time when a young detective, a member of the enquiry team arrived to interview the old man. He noticed the tension and said ‘It’s all right Sergeant, I’ll take it from here.’ He then addressed the old man saying, ‘Sir, come this way please, we will have to take you through the metal detector thing. Can you empty your pockets?’ The old man did not move. He seemed to be getting a bit agitated.
‘I will not empty my pockets or go through any detector thingamajig I want to speak to Commander Mwekundu. Get me Ruby Mwekundu, right now, young man.’ The detective made as if to grab the old man by the arm. The old man leaped back and hissed, ‘Don’t you dare touch me. You don’t know who I am.’ The Sergeant stopped what he was doing to see what was going on. He could see that there was a potential for the situation to get ugly. He did not want that. Just then internal door opened and commander Ruby Mwekundu stepped into the front desk area. She looked at the old man and said, ‘Hey Babu, to what do we owe the pleasure?’
‘Babu, of course!’, said the desk Sergeant. You were commander here once, before my time. I’ve heard so much about you. How are you doing sir?
The old man smiled sadly at the Sergeant. ‘ Not very good, Sergeant. Hello Ruby. I have good days and bad. Just now I had totally forgotten who I was. You got here right on time commander.” He made a show of outstretching his arms, wrists together like a man in handcuffs. “I have come to hand myself in. I think I may have committed some terrible crimes.’
Babu then unwrapped the brown parcel, ripping off the tape and tearing at the brown wrapping paper. ‘The reason I would not go through your metal detector machine is because of this!’ He finally placed the contents of his package onto the desk. There was one black pair of ladies nylon tights and a large kitchen carving knife with traces of blood on the blade and the handle.
Ruby Mwekundu shook her head. ‘Babu, what on earth is going on?’
To find out we need to turn the clock back six days to the evening of Tuesday 11th June
Evening Tuesday 11th June
Senator Gerald Kibiwot stood at the doorway that led into the ornate banquet hall. It was almost ten-thirty and the party was in full swing. The band on stage was playing some fine Rumba. There were waiters on hand to top up glasses and the expensive champagne flowed freely. The ladies in beautiful long gowns, looked amazing beside their dapper young men. Kibiwot was able to pick out several members of the press mingling with the guests, snapping photos here and there. There was much laughter and merriment in the hall and he was pleased.
Kibiwot was a seasoned host. As President of the National TV and Drama Institute he was accustomed to holding these events. Today’s was special. He had pulled all the stops to throw a dinner and dance party here at the elegant Emperor’s restaurant on the 29th floor of the popular Everest Hotel in Westlands to celebrate the wonderful success of a budding young writer. Her debut made-for-tv drama, recently aired on a major TV station, had been received with wide acclaim. The media were already linking the rising star with television and film producers for future projects and Senator Gerald Kibiwot’s TV production company was one of the big names.
The MC rose and at her signal the band stopped playing. When it was quiet she introduced the Senator to the gathering, inviting him to present the new writer to her excited fans. A proud Kibiwot beamed as camera bulbs flashed from all directions. Standing beside him was the girl of the moment – Ms Anindo Opondo. She waved and blew kisses to the clapping guests who responded enthusiastically. She was loving the limelight immensely and the adoring guests cheered wildly when she took a humble bow.
The Senator guided the graceful Anindo between the admiring guests to the high table to introduce her to Mrs Kibiwot and other distinguished guests already seated. Kibiwot nodded to the great and the good who included a couple of African diplomats, a Cabinet Secretary, a Govenor’s husband, the CEO of a large mobile phone operator and two well known media house owners. Also seated here were more TV show hosts and anchors than you could shake a stick at.
Senator Kibiwot’s wife, resplendent in a pink chiffon gown and bright blue earrings was in animated conversation with the governor’s husband and had her back to them when the Senator called to her, ‘Nancy my dear, meet Anindo Opondo.’
Nancy Kibiwot turned to shake hands with Anindo Opondo. Their eyes met and a strange look flashed momentarily on Nancy Kibiwot’s face. Anindo had seen the look and misread it. She was becoming famous. It was normal that people would recognise her. This would turn out to be an unfortunate miscalculation.
The evening wore on and more guests streamed into the hall. They ate from a lavish buffet menu, drank, danced and chatted gaily. Anindo had just returned from the dance-floor with the governor’s husband, who was a surprisingly good dancer. She needed a moment or two to catch her breath. She settled back into her seat between the Kibiwots who were busy tucking into their huge platters of roast pork and dripping. She took a sip of her drink and waved to a waiter who came up behind her, bending close to hear her request.
‘I really need a ciggie right now’ whispered Anindo to the waiter. He nodded, placed a few empty glasses on a tray and went away. He was back again several moments later to announce quite loudly, ‘There is a phone call for Ms Anindo. Madam, If you would kindly follow me to reception.’ The Senator and his wife had not even looked up. Nothing would interrupt them as they crushed juicy pork ribs and swigged sweet pear brandy.
Anindo got up and followed the waiter. When they were out in the corridor he said, ‘If you wish to be alone, I can show you where we go for a quiet smoke. Come this way.’ He led her through a door that opened into a large kitchen. They went through to the far end where he opened the fire escape door. They climbed up a spiral staircase to the next floor and onto a smart garden on a balcony that ran the entire length of the building. ‘Wow this is nice!’ said Anindo. ‘What a posh restaurant.’
‘We call this one the Balcony Restaurant,’ said the waiter. ‘It’s where I normally work. I only came down to the banquet hall tonight for a bit of over-time.’ Anindo smiled at him. They went right up to the edge and looked over the railings and down to the Ojijo Road, far below, still busy with the late evening traffic.
Anindo took out a packet of Embassy Menthols from her purse, offering one to the waiter who flicked his Ronson and lit them up. They smoked in silence for a while, taking in the view. The moon was out and the few clouds that were about raced one another across the sky towards the hills far in the horizon. A million and a half twinkling stars added to this magical sky.
‘Such a beautiful evening,’ said Anindo, her mood light and gay from the wine. The waiter nodded and was about to say something when they heard footsteps coming up the spiral stairway. The waiter put out his cigarette and went towards the top of the stairs. He moved aside to let a lady in high heels and a pink gown emerge onto the balcony. He waved cheerily at Anindo and hurried down the stairs and back to work.
The senator’s wife had a deep voice. ‘Aha!’ She said, ‘So the dear Anindo is up here having a sneaky cigarette with the staff whilst everyone at the party is wondering where she got to.’The Senator’s wife then sat down and kicked off her high heels. She rolled off her stockings and rubbed her sore ankles. She came to stand beside Anindo at the edge of the balcony and looked down below.
The Senator’s wife then spoke again but softly this time. Anindo strained to hear what she was saying. ‘In the tv interview last week they asked you if your story was based on true events. You said that your parents were murdered and that you know their killer. That was foolish and careless, my dear girl.’ The senator’s wife suddenly slipped her nylon stockings around Anindo’s neck pulling the noose tightly in her strong hands. Anindo tried to free herself but it was no use. As she desperately fought for air her attacker’s quietly spoken words transported her far back to a dark, disturbed past. As Anindo slowly lost consciousness she glimpsed an image of mother lying in bed, dying of an unknown disease. She saw too her broken hearted father marrying the nurse who had looked after mother to the end. Six weeks after the marriage father was dead. The nurse had sold all their belongings and disappeared. It was that nurse who stood behind her now choking her to death. Anindo passed out.
12:00 Noon Wednesday 12th June
Commander Ruby Mwekundu went into the deputy assistant commissioner’s office and shut the door. He nodded inviting Ruby to take a seat. ‘So what information do we have for our superiors about this incident?’ he asked, closing the file he had been looking at.
The commander looked at her boss and said in a solemn voice, ‘ It has been confirmed that the body found this morning on a pavement adjacent to the Everest Hotel, Westlands is indeed that of celebrity writer Anindo Opondo. Senator Kibiwot, who hosted a function attended by Ms Opondo at the hotel last night, made the formal identification at 09:15 this morning.’
‘Good work.’ said the deputy assistant commissioner. ‘Now, I understand that she fell from a balcony. Are we able to determine yet, whether this was accidental or erm….suicide?’
Ruby shook her head. ‘Not yet, sir. The pathology team are looking into it as we speak. There is, of course, a third option that we must bear in mind sir. Homicide.’ The police boss winced at the word, looking at Ruby with disdain for daring to suggest it. ‘Naah,’ he said. ‘This was a girl who had a bit too much wine, went way too close to the edge, felt giddy and tumbled to her death. Happens a lot you know. Homicide is out of the question, and for goodness sake don’t give the press any cause for wild speculation Commander!’
As he finished speaking Ruby’s cell-phone vibrated where it lay on the table between them. ‘I better take this sir, it’s the pathology lab.’ She answered the call and listened intently for a moment or so, with the deputy assistant commissioner waiting patiently. She ended the call and said, ‘Their preliminary findings indicate that Ms Anindo died of asphyxiation. She was strangled before being pushed off the balcony.
The assistant deputy with a face like thunder said, ‘It was the third option, after all, Commander. Now go find this wretched killer and do it quickly.
12:00 Noon Friday 14th June
The HR manager at the Everest Hotel likened himself to a captain of a large ocean going ship. Today he was not a happy man. For the third day running the Balcony Restaurant head waiter had failed to turn up for work. It was disgraceful. He needed a full complement of staff if his ship was to cruise the stormy waters that busy weekends presented to establishments such as his. His numerous calls to the man had gone unanswered and when he had asked fellow waiters whether they knew of his whereabouts nobody had a clue. He was last seen working a shift at that glitzy party on the Tuesday evening. The night that woman fell from the balcony.
The head chef was in his tiny office at the back of the kitchen. He called to his porter, ‘Rasheed, please check that delivery that’s just arrived, put it away and bring me the paperwork when you’re done.’ There was a pallet of dairy produce – various kinds of butters, cheeses and eggs – all to be put away in the walk in fridge which was beside the big kitchen. Rasheed worked quickly, loading a small trolley with produce. He went into the cold fridge and decided to move the stack of tomato trays to one side to make some room. Something lay on the floor covered with an empty potato sack. It had been hidden from sight by the stack of tomato trays. Rasheed lifted the sack to find the Balcony Restaurant waiter’s lifeless eyes staring back at him.
Commander Ruby was back in the deputy assistant commissioners office. Today the mood was distinctly chilly. ‘I expected better judgement from you commander,’ The deputy was saying. ‘You should not have given him special treatment just because he is an ex-policeman. The man should be in remand. I don’t need to remind you that his crimes are capital offences. You should never have let him go.
‘Babu is no murderer. He did not kill those people. Surely even you can see that, sir.’ Ruby was at her wits end. The deputy commissioner believed that Babu may have carried out the heinous acts whilst of unsound mind. He had ordered a scaling down of the investigation and wanted Babu charged immediately.